Less than two weeks after being traded and moving his hockey home 1,700 kilometres east to the MJHL’s Swan Valley Stampeders, Jackson Zloty appears to have found his groove.
The 20-year-old left-winger has scored four times and added an assist in his first three games since being acquired from the BCHL’s Prince George Spruce Kings to help the Stampeders bust out to a 4-0 start to the season.
Swan Valley was among the clubs that enquired about Zloty’s availability last summer and the Calgarian carefully considered his options. He decided he didn’t want to return to Prince George and when it became clear the MJHL would be the first junior A league in Western Canada to start up, the choice became straightforward.
"I took some time and thought about it and decided that Swan Valley was a good fit for me as a player," said Zloty. "It gave me an opportunity to play and I was able to play meaningful hockey the entire season of my last year of junior. It was a pretty easy decision once I really thought about it."
He’s found some chemistry on a line with centre Jayce Nikbakht and right-winger Callum Fortin; the trio has combined for 12 points.
"It’s been pretty good so far," said Zloty, whose younger brother Ben is a defenceman with the WHL’s Winnipeg Ice. "I have more of an offensive role, so I’m able to be more creative on the ice and use my speed to my advantage."
Stamps general manager/head coach Barry Wolff said Zloty has been as good as he anticipated.
"We definitely hoped he would bring what he brought," said Wolff. "We knew that he was a strong skater and had the ability to make plays in small areas and that he could add offence, and he’s definitely done that so far for us."
Wolff, who has deep ties to the BCHL, engineered two off-season trades that have paid off quickly.
Forward Haydn Delorme, acquired from the BCHL’s Spruce Kings, leads the MJHL in scoring with nine points, including one goal, in four games. Linemate Alex Danis, brought over from the AJHL’s Lloydminster Bobcats, is fourth in league scoring with five goals and seven points in four games.
On Saturday night, an unblemished start didn’t look promising midway through the third period with OCN leading 4-1, but a cross-checking major assessed to Blizzard forward Aiden Litke at 15:21 led to power-play goals by Josh Beauchemin, then Zloty twice in a span of 26 seconds, and finally, Danis sniped the winner with 25 ticks left in regulation.
The Stamps held on for a 5-4 win.
"We were lucky to get that call, that five-minute major," said Wolff, noting that defenceman Lane Kirk, whose head was bloodied by Litke, didn’t miss a shift. "Our guys kind of just said, ‘OK, if there’s any chance here we’ve got to make this count,’ and they did. So that was awesome."
The whole experience was something new for Zloty.
"I’ve never been part of anything close to that," he said. "Maybe two (power-play goals on a major) but four? That was pretty insane."
DELAY OF GAME: Sunday’s MJHL game between the Winnipeg Freeze and visiting Steinbach Pistons was halted with 5:20 remaining in the first period and the teams tied 0-0.
The cause? A chunk of ice approximately one foot square broke free at the Rink Training Centre and attempts to fix the problem were not immediately successful.
Repairs have since been completed but a rescheduled date for the game has not been announced.
TOUGH TICKET: The Winnipeg Ice announced Monday it is likely walk-up tickets will not be available for fans wanting to attend games at Wayne Fleming Arena when the WHL starts its season on Jan. 8.
In a statement, club president and GM Matt Cockell said "only confirmed access pass holders" will be allowed to attend home games. Wayne Fleming Arena normally has a capacity of 1,600 fans and the league is hoping they will be permitted to have up to 50 per cent capacity for its games.
"The number of spectators will be determined by the local health authorities and approved facility public orders. This will be subject to change as the season progresses," he added.
Mike has been working on the Free Press sports desk since 2003.